Southland: “Identity”

SOUTHLAND: 4.04 “Identity”

The big news in this week’s episode of Southland is that Detective Lydia Adams is pregnant. We’re not sure by whom, which I think is actually an interesting twist on what we might usually see in a show like this (i.e. we would have known who the father is, or at least seen a few potential fathers). I like how we see little parts of our character’s lives outside of their jobs, like Lydia’s conversation with her mother in the kitchen or Ben’s brief scene in the suburbs with the real estate agent, but not much else. We tend to see just enough so we know how their personal issues might be affecting them on the street. This episode didn’t have quite as many crazy, bizarre events as the last few, but I’ll touch on each storyline below.

  • Tang and Cooper spend the episode trying to get a confused yet harmless homeless man and former Marine placed into a shelter. They even take the extraordinary step of paying a visit to a counterfeit ID maker; instead of busting him, they force him to make the homeless man an ID so he can return to the shelter. I really liked this storyline’s focus on compassionate policing. Sure, it’s great to see our heroes chase down violent bad guys, but seeing them spend so much time and effort in the attempt to help one of the most vulnerable members of society was really heartwarming.
  • Lydia and Ruben were busy investigating the murder of a local man who takes in troubled kids. Turns out he was sleeping with two of his young charges; one of them found out, and the other killed him in a jealous rage. The murderer’s mother tried to take the blame to protect her child, which made Lydia wonder about her impending motherhood. Right now, it looks like she’s going to keep the child, despite the many problems it will probably cause in her career.
  • Ben and Sammy spend most of their time tracking down some wanna-be gang bangers, though there’s also a small storyline about an injured dog mixed in there. Sammy really does have a soft heart for animals, though maybe that’s because his ex-wife got custody of the dog. For some reason, I don’t remember too much of this story, but I do recall Sammy explaining to Ben that he needs to move out to the suburbs to be around “his people.” It seems like Ben, after his off duty run-in with his contemptuous neighbor, is ready to take his advice, as the episode ends with him and a realtor viewing a house in some sunblasted, suburban cul-de-sac.

 

Southland: Community

SOUTHLAND: 4.03 “Community”

Last week, I mentioned that the cops and detectives of Southland see crazy things every day, but none of it ever seems contrived. Unlike every other police procedural on television, everything in Southland seems like it could really happen. I was thinking about this a lot this week because I happened to watch Castle on Monday because there was nothing else on. I don’t mean to hate on the show, but Castle is like any other police procedural out there; two mismatched partners use their smarts and a little bit of luck to investigate a crime that ties up in a neat bow by the end of the episode. The most obvious suspect usually isn’t the guilty one; instead, the guilty party has a convoluted, well hidden motive that our heroes usually only uncover in a House-like epiphany, like so:

Minor Character: Can you get me a glass of water?
Our Hero: Water….? <far off look in eyes>
Minor Character: Yeah, do you mind? Just out of the tap, it doesn’t need to be filtered.
Our Hero: Of course! The killer hid his gun in the pool filter? <dashes off>
Minor Character: Never mind, I’ll get it myself.

I know that most procedurals like Castle aren’t aiming for the same level of verisimilitude as Southland, but the contrived formula that they follow is just so boring to me, especially since it’s followed, to a greater or lesser degree, by almost any show related to cops, detectives, or crime on television right now. This is why Southland is so refreshing to me. This week, Lydia and Ruben investigated the murder of a corrupt mortgage lender who was ripping off people in her own neighborhood. They immediately assumed the killer was one of her victims, and they were right; she was murdered by the son of one of her victims. In any other procedural, the dogwalker would have done it because the victim stiffed her on a tip six years before. In any other procedural, the murderer wouldn’t have been a damaged, drunk, homeless war veteran who stumbled so pathetically away from Lydia and Ruben that they merely waited until he tripped on his own feet, then walked casually down the street to catch up with him. In Southland, we see cops going about their work days and seeing all sorts of weird, dangerous things that seemingly happen at random. We see detectives follow natural, logical leads that point to suspects who are flawed, sometimes sympathetic people rather than devious criminal masterminds. And all through this, we see how Sammy, Ben, John, Jessica, Lydia, and Ruben react to the stress and brutality of the world around them. Southland feels like a living, breathing show; the rest of the police procedurals might as well be mannequins.

Southland: “Underwater”

SOUTHLAND: 4.02 “Underwater”

Since the move to TNT, and the slimming down of the cast, Southland has shifted to focusing more often on the day to day experiences of its four main cast members, and less on overarching or deeply personal stories. Underwater was a very good, “daily event” focused episode in which we saw a good bit of weird stuff through the eyes of Cooper and Tang, most notably:

  • Naked guy casually jogging down the street.
  • A woman hit by a car and killed; her head winds up caught in the car’s wheel well.
  • Meth head running down the street while on fire. He apparently burst into flames while watching porn in an X-rated video store.
  • Giant roidhead guy shrugging off a taser shot and facing down three cops at once.
  • Crazy old lady with two guns and a bulletproof vest shooting at her neighbors and the cops for no good reason.

All these weird, dangerous situations pop up suddenly, but in a way that’s not contrived at all. It really drives home to the viewer that cops out on the beat face all sort of weird, bizarre, dangerous situations that suddenly interrupt their lunch or their daily banter with their partners, or any other routine moment in a normal looking day.

Sammy and Ben spend most of the episode teaming up with two other beat cops, one of which is an even greener rookie than Ben. She makes a mistake and lets a suspect escape, and while Ben, Sammy, and the rest eventually find him, he nearly takes off Ben’s head with a baseball bat in the process. I liked the explosive anger Ben shows towards the woman who was sheltering the suspect; Ben’s always viewed himself and his fellow police officers as helping hands in the community, but the woman he argues with looks at them more like an invading force than anything else. The conflict sets up a nice scene in which Ben, Sammy, and the two other cops share their reasons for becoming police officers. Ben, of course, was driven by idealism, but his idealism is fading fast, as we certainly see when he loses control and punches out the fifteen year old girl who spits on him in the parking lot. Unfortunately, the girl’s friends caught everything on video, so I have a feeling that we might see Officer Sherman show up on YouTube in the next few episodes. It will be interesting to see how Ben reacts to to some of this negative attention.

I wonder if Ben’s experience on the streets will turn his idealism to cynicism. We see from Lydia’s plotline that even though she’s been through a lot, she is not a total cynic and still believes that the system usually works. Disposing of the evidence in her murder case, as her new partner subtly hints at, would be wrong; it’s not her job to decide a suspect’s fate, no matter how much she might understand his reasons.

Southland: Wednesday

SOUTHLAND: 4.01 “Wednesday”

Southland is finally back. This has been one of my favorite shows of the last few years, and I’m so glad that it still has a home on TNT. The end of last season shook up the dynamics of the cast a little bit. Sammy, now a street cop, is out on the beat with Ben, who’s no longer a boot but still very much a rookie. Lydia is now partnered up with junior detective and war veteran Ruben Robinson, and Cooper, now out of rehab, is riding with Officer Jessica Tang.

Just a quick note on all three of the partnerships: So far, I like each one a lot. There’s some interesting chemistry between Cooper and Tang, especially because both of them have something to prove to the other (Cooper wants everyone to know he still has what it takes to be a cop, while Tang wants it to be clear that despite her previous run-in with a dangerous criminal, she can handle what the job throws at her). Sammy and Ben get along like brothers. We didn’t see a lot of Lydia and Ruben working together in this episode, but I already like him more than her abrasive older partner from last year. Lydia’s first partnership with Russ was one of equals; she took more of a junior role in her partnership with Ochoa from last season. This year, she’s the older, wiser detective, so I’m looking forward to seeing her teach the newbie.

Ben is still very much a rookie, and follows regulations to the letter which causes some friction with an older, less strict officer. Sammy tries to mediate between the two as best as he can, but the intra-cop squabble is interrupted when some crazy guy rushes into the police station and starts shooting. We’re not given much of an explanation as to why this happens (which actually makes thematic sense with the rest of the episode; think about the perp getting hit by the truck, Lydia’s CI turning up dead inside the cooler, or the crazy man who tries to hang himself in front of Cooper and Tang. There is senseless, almost insane violence all around) but it’s a tense, heart-pounding scene.

I’m very glad Southland is back, and I can’t wait to see how the dynamics between the new partners evolve this season. Based on one episode, Lucy Liu was a great addition to the cast. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu Talk ‘Southland’

Southland, perhaps the best (and only) non-procedural cop show on TV, comes back tonight at 10 PM on TNT. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this show. I’ve already seen the first episode, and it’s really great. I’ll have more thoughts on it tomorrow morning, but in short, the writing is as sharp as it’s ever been, and Lucy Liu looks to be a great addition to the cast.

A few weeks ago, I got to sit in on a conference call with Michael Cudlitz and Lucy Liu, who got to talk a bit about their character’s new partnership and what’s in store for both of them this season. Some selections from the call are below the jump. Be sure to watch tonight at 10; you won’t be disappointed.

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Julie Benz Talks ‘Ricochet’

Do I really need to tell you that I’m a fan of Julie Benz? From Buffy to Angel to Dexter, she’s had a large part in my ’90s and early 2000s viewing habits. Heck, I even remember one episode of Sliders about tornadoes when she guest starred. So yeah, I’m a fan.

So I was really excited to see that she’d be starring alongside John Corbett and Gary Cole in TNT’s movie Ricochet, which premieres tonight on TNT. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Ricochet follows two homicide detectives as they investigate a murder in high society Savannah. Julie plays Elise, the wife of corrupt Judge Laird, and her character leaves you guessing throughout the movie.

I was lucky enough to participate in a conference call with Julie, where she discussed her love of mystery novels, the challenge of playing Elise, the stuffy Southern weather, and even a few past roles. Check out the Q&A below, and don’t forget to watch Ricochet tonight on TNT!

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The first question I’ve got for you is…were you familiar with Sandra Brown’s novel prior to working with the film? – Mediamikes.com

I was familiar with Sandra Brown. I had read Ricochet a long time ago — like a while ago — and really enjoyed it. I’m an avid reader, and I love her books.

What did you like most about playing [Elise]? And how did you prepare for the role?

What I loved was how…the challenge of playing Elise was how close she keeps everything inside, and you don’t know if she’s good or bad, and you’re never sure exactly what she’s thinking. And that was a real challenge for me to play. And I had to work really hard on an accent. So I worked very hard on my accent for the movie as well. And that helps me really get into Elise because with that specific type of Southern accent she moved slower and talked slower than I do, and that allowed me to actually be a little more serious…

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It’s really an honor to talk to you. You’re one of my favorite actresses actually…I’ve followed your career ever since Hi, Honey I’m Home, and I have a website about that show… – TV Megasite

Oh my goodness.

I know, going back a ways…I was wondering in this movie you have to sort of — we don’t really know whether your character is a good girl or a bad girl through most of the movie. Was that difficult to play?

No. I mean, it was challenging to play, but it wasn’t difficult in the fact that, I mean, I understood what her intentions were, sure. I mean, the way she got around to doing stuff wasn’t necessarily all that normal. But in her heart everything, like her intentions behind it, all was pure…But you had to actually admit, too, she’s a little crazy for what she did.

Well, you’re good at playing crazy ladies like Darla in Angel.

Thank you.

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Falling Skies: What Hides Beneath

JC here, covering for Raked. She’s got a cold, so wish her a quick recovery.

FALLING SKIES: 1.08 “What Hides Beneath”

After this episode, only the two episode finale remains of the first season of Falling Skies. I’ll admit, I wasn’t much of a fan of the previous episode (nonwithstanding the reappearance of Pope near the end).  I didn’t really like the story of the human collaborators; it felt like the plot had been done this way too many times before. It made me immediately think of the part in Watership Down when the wandering rabbits find what looks to be a safe, healthy warren, only to discover men are keeping predators away just to fatten up the rabbits within and snare them for dinner. This plot point dawns on the reader of Watership Down slowly; so slowly that you can’t help but feel horror and disgust over the betrayal and surrender. In Falling Skies, this was all telegraphed too quickly and too easily; I saw it coming from a mile away and there wasn’t much shock or surprise. But enough about last episode…

This week’s episode was much more entertaining to me. Pope had a bigger, more entertaining role in this episode, so perhaps his mix of brash irreverence and unpredictable chaos was the missing ingredient. I really enjoyed the scene with Pope explaining to Matt that he shouldn’t be afraid of the mechs, because after you destroy them, they’re just a hunk of metal.

Also interesting was Weaver’s backstory, which they really got into here. It’s not particularly unique (daughter was harnessed, he tried to get her out of it and killed her as a result) but it was told convincingly; I could definitely see his previously solid resolve crumble into an alcoholic haze of regret.

We learn a lot of new things in this episode, but they leave us with more questions. First, skitters aren’t the only kinds of aliens out there. There are others, taller with smooth, elongated bodies and legs. Could they be the commanders in charge of the invasion? Second, the alien structure in the middle of downtown was constructed using the scavenged scrap metal that all the enslaved children around the city have been digging up. Third, we know that Hal’s girlfriend is now harnessed and serving the invaders. Finally, skitters aren’t really aliens at all. They’re actually harnessed children who have been mutated and changed in some way. I’ll admit, I didn’t see this coming until right before Anne sliced open the dead skitter; even at that point, I wasn’t sure they’d actually do it given the show’s tendency to lean on noble sacrifices and happy melodrama, but they did. It was a nice, dark twist that has me even more interested in the season as it reaches its conclusion. Why do the aliens want to create these skitters? What are they after, exactly? We might not find out right away, but given the plan to use a couple bombs on the supporting legs of the alien structure, the last episode will probably be explosive.

Sorry, bad pun, but I couldn’t help it. In all seriousness, I’m looking for a few good fight scenes, a few answers, and maybe a few more intriguing questions to carry us into Season 2.

Before You Watch Falling Skies, Check Out a Chat with Colin Cunningham

Yessiree, Falling Skies is on again. It’s Sunday, and a brand-new episode airs tonight, and after last week’s cliffhanger, I’m certainly wondering the fate of all our children — and a certain bad guy. John Pope is back on the scene, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Fortunately, I got to talk to Colin Cunningham, who plays John Pope, on a recent conference call. He was so fun to talk to, and he just loved chatting us up. In fact, it felt much more like mini-interviews than a Q&A.

You can check out my mini-interview with Colin below, where he discusses Boston, bad guys, and a certain young lady with a dark past with Pope. Then, after the interview, read some more great questions and answers with Colin before tonight’s fantastic episode of Falling Skies.

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Hi, it’s a pleasure talking with you today.

Hey… you, too. Hello. Where are you?

I’m in Boston, actually.

In Boston. Oh, my god.

Yes, I was going to ask you, have you had an opportunity to see Boston before an alien attack?

No, I haven’t. I haven’t. I would love to see Boston. I really, really would. About the closest I ever got to Boston was in Toronto they locked down a freeway, like two miles of freeway, and they filled it with buses that had been tipped over and semi-trucks on fire and cars smashed into each other, but the sign on the bridge, it said, “Boston, one mile.” And that’s pretty close. It’s as close as I’ve gotten yet.

Well, we’d love to have you over on this side of the world.

Sure. I’d love it.

So I’m wondering if you had any bad guy role models that you kind of tried to slip in a little of them into John Pope?

Well, yes [one] person that comes to mind, actually, it wasn’t so much bad guy, but I thought this guy has – it’s a word you don’t often hear all that much anymore – at the least character to me – was charisma. There’s something charismatic about him. And it’s not a word that’s often attributed to too many actors out there, except for one that I know of is Peter Falk, God rest his soul. But Peter Falk – I’m a big Cassavetes fan. And Peter had charisma. There was just something about the swagger, the – just his vibe, you know, because it’s not an easily definable…

And so that was important to me, because bad guy, schmad guy, you know? And any smart actor naturally isn’t going to play him as a bad guy. He’s going to – that’s already done. The writers have already done that, you know? So for me, it was about trying to find something different about him. What is he? You know, he’s kind of part Shakespeare’s, you know, Puck. And on the other side, you know, he’s – you know, he’s Rutger Hauer. Or I don’t know.

But – so for me, it was about trying to find something that was different. And so much of that was already in the writing. He’s so intelligent. He’s so smart. He’s articulate. He’s an opportunist. He’s incredibly selfish. But I think in another lifetime, if John Pope had – you know, I can almost see John Pope and Tom Mason being best friends in school, in elementary school, and then, because of different choices in life, they ended up taking different paths, you know?

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Exclusive Interview with Falling Skies’ Drew Roy!

Falling Skies premieres on Sunday! I’m so excited. And what made me even more excited was my recent opportunity to talk to Drew Roy, who plays Hal on the series. You might remember Drew from Hannah Montana and iCarly, but despite Hal’s only being 17 in the series, Drew is certainly portraying someone grown beyond his years.

Drew was so fun to talk to. Very down to Earth but very excited to talk about the series! Check out the interview below where Drew chats monsters, Twitter, his fans, and more! And don’t forget to check out the two-hour premiere of Falling Skies this Sunday on TNT.

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First, let me congratulate you on the show. What drew you to this series?

Um, to be completely honest with you, I was in no — and still possibly am in no — position to, like, choose my roles, so the fact that they would hire me, I was like, Let’s do it! [Laughs] I was incredibly fortunate that it was such a great project and had so many amazing people working on it. And you know, the whole two years that we’ve been working on this thing have just been such a blast, such a learning experience. And once I booked it and got to really dig into the character — such an great character to play, as well — you know, it’s very interesting that he’s a 17-year-old kid, but he’s having to step up into this leadership position and carry a gun and help his dad raise his younger sons. You know, this guy has a lot on his plate on top of still trying to be a kid. You know, he has a girlfriend. He wants to have fun, but at the end of the day, he’s got a job to do.

Yeah. And you did mention the really diverse cast that you’re working with. How’s that?

Oh, man. You can’t ask for much better. You show up on set, it makes you bring your A-game. I mean, hopefully, you bring your A-game anyway, but this is solidifying the fact that you’re better. And working with these guys is so great. You just pay attention to what’s going on, and you don’t have to act. You just react, and you don’t have to force things, and it’s still interesting. Then the sets that we’re on, you know, we have cars flipped over and fires and smoke, and it’s just, you feel like you’re there. It helps.

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Conference Call with Leverage’s Timothy Hutton

It’s summer TV time, and that means that TNT’s thoroughly enjoyable, modern-day Robin Hood series Leverage is coming back, June 26 at 9 pm. Here at Raked, we’ve already had the chance to see one episode, which features the team enjoying a bit of mountain climbing in some very dangerous and icy conditions.

We also had a chance to listen in on a conference call with Timothy Hutton. Check it out below to get some insight on some of his favorite cons, and some hints on the new season’s big bad.

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Hey, um, Tim, can you talk about some of the unexpected sides of Nate that you’re looking forward to exploring this season? – The Deadbolt

Well, every season that we started it’s been interesting and challenging to approach Nate and see where we left him off, you know, when we last saw him.  And this year, it’s especially kind of rich with various possibilities because of how we left him and Sophie at the end of third season.  So a lot of what’s happening this season has to do with Nate and Sophie trying to figure out their place in each other’s lives and then of course there’s the further exploration of Nate, his drinking and how he functions.  And there’s actually less of that.  The fourth season is much more about Nate on a mission to be clear minded and try not to let his team down and become dangerous and put his team in jeopardy.  So there’s a lot of that and the nice thing about the character is there aren’t a lot of boundaries.  He started off in such dire straits that it’s been a lot of fun to play because there are so many possibilities.  He’s quite an unpredictable person with a lot of flaws.

Well, I know you can’t give a lot of way, but can you talk about how Leon Rippy’s character factors in throughout the season? 

One of the interesting things that’s happening in the fourth season that we’re all having with and the writers especially, is the Leverage team is being followed by a group of people.  And Leon’s character kind of factors into that a little bit.  And we’re not sure who he is exactly but we know that he has quite a keen interest in the Leverage team and what we’re up to and has kind of eyes and ears everywhere.  And so the fourth season you will see the Leverage team being pursued, hunted in a way by people who want them to stop what they’re doing or want them to continue what they’re doing if it benefits them in some way.  You know, sort of bottom feeders group of people that are kind of wanting to ride the coat tails of the Leverage team without the Leverage team knowing it.  So it’s kind of a nice thing to happen in the fourth season that we’re filming now evolves, you see how the Leverage team handles the idea of being pursued and people knowing their every move.  They kind of have to go underground and they have to – they never want to be together at the same time in the same place.  So, along with them doing their typical cases that they take on, they’re having to watch their backs all the time.

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